In California, adventure is a year round activity. The only change for residents and visitors is that the types of activities change for the seasons. From November to April, the state’s alpine regions receive snow, and hiking and backpacking areas become skiing and snowboarding zones. Along the coast, some of the largest surf appears at this time due to the winter storm track. And, along the Eastern border of the state, the temperature drops in California’s various deserts to a temperate level, making winter the best time to visit some of the most unusual, beautiful, and unknown natural features of the state. From North to South, California has a number of deserts, and a number of adventures. I’ve compiled a great list of things to start with in the state, so pack up your tents and lace up your boots, because winter is the best desert exploration time.

Go Spelunking in the Caves of Lava Beds National Monument

Lava BedsThe Last Adventurer

Tucked away along the northern border is one of the hidden gems of the National Park System, Lava Beds National Monument. While the monument has many historic features, it is known for its system of lava tube caves that were formed by volcanic eruptions from the Medicine Lake shield volcano. Unlike many National Parks, Lava Beds encourages visitors to explore the network of caves within the park boundaries. With over twenty different caves to explore, there is a cave for every skill level of explorer.  Visitors should be aware that as Lava Beds is in the high desert, temperatures can be on the cooler side, and should pack warm jackets as well for exploring the caves.


Trail Run Alongside the Volcanic Tablelands Petroglyphs

Volcanic TablelandsThe Last Adventurer

Located just outside Bishop, California are some of the most amazing pieces of rock art within the state. Created by the Paiute-Shoshone several thousand years ago, these pieces of rock art have amazing figures and designs, which culminate in the phantasmagorical Newspaper Rock. Many of these pieces are located off Fish Slough Road, a dirt road which is an excellent place for a run through history, and also provides epic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the West, and the White Mountains to the East. If a great run in the high desert wasn’t enough incentive to visit the Owens Valley, there are nearby hot springs, and a number of other great things to do in and around Bishop.

Volcanic Tablelands PetroglyphsThe Last Adventurer


Search for Hidden Water in Death Valley

Death ValleyThe Last Adventurer

While Death Valley has many interesting features, many of them are the result of long term geologic processes. Also, one of the least known facts about Death Valley is that it used to be part of a large glacial lake, Lake Manly. While Lake Manly is long gone, its legacy remains under the valley floor. Today, high saline pools form and disappear throughout the Badwater basin for unknown reasons. The best place to find them is near the Devil’s Golf Course, near the center of the park. If the pools prove to be too elusive to find, Darwin Falls on the edge of the park is a spectacular waterfall that surprisingly, flows year round in an inhospitable environment.

Death ValleyThe Last Adventurer 

Sunbathe in a Ray of Light, and go Sledding Down a Singing Sand Dune

Mojave National PreserveThe Last Adventurer

Located just outside of Baker, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada is the Mojave National Preserve. While the preserve features many intriguing things, including an old rail depot at Kelso, and an old town at Zzyzx, it also has two great unique adventures. The Lava Tube, located near the center of the park off Kelbaker Road, is a small cave with an opening that provides a perennial heavenly beam of light. This is a great adventure for photographers, or for any desert adventurer. If a great photo opportunity was not reason enough to visit, a one-of-a-kind-adventure opportunity also awaits in the Mojave Preserve.  The Kelso Dunes at the southern end of the park provide a great solitude and hiking opportunities for all visitors; and also rumble with unique booming sounds due to the winds that sweep through the area. The Dunes also provide a location for adventurous parties to sled down, or sandboard down without getting cold.

Mojave National PreserveThe Last Adventuer


Explore the Anza-Borrego/Salton Sea Basin

Anza-BorregoThe Last Adventurer

Located at the southernmost part of California, the Anza-Borrego Desert has a number of distinctive adventures. From off-roading through desert badlands near Font’s Point to hiking to abandoned train trestles or exploring caves, this desert is a hidden gem. A number of exploration opportunities are also available around the nearby man-made Salton Sea, from viewing the abandoned towns like Bombay Beach, or searching for bubbling volcanic mud hot pots on the Salton Sea’s eastern shore. Fans of folk art can also visit the nearby Salvation Mountain, which is an unsurpassed piece of man-made free standing art.

Anza-BorregoThe Last Adventurer

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